Faculty of Medicine

Food pattern calculator estimates how to gain up to ten life years

Researchers at UiB have developed a calculator that can estimate how many life years you could gain by modifications in diet patterns.

Nøtter, bønner og linser
Nuts, whole grain and legumes are food groups that are strongly associated with longer life expectancy.

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What we eat is essential for health and prevention of disease, and unhealthy eating is associated with 11 million deaths and 255 million life years annually. A study published in PLOS Medicine on the 8th of February by researchers at the University of Bergen estimates that life expectancy can increase by up to ten years through diet modifications.

The researchers have developed a calculator that can estimate how many life years you could gain by modifications in diet patterns. Professor Lars T. Fadnes at the Department of Global Health and Primary Care, UiB, explains:

"For example, an average 40-year-old woman from the United States or Europe who has eaten a typical Western diet, is likely to gain around ten years by optimizing her diet from that age. Even a quite feasible diet modification is estimated to translate into gains of around six life years".

More nuts and legumes, less red meat, and refined grains

The study shows that some food groups are more strongly associated with life expectancy than others – positively or negatively:

"The largest health gains are estimated from eating more legumes, whole grains and nuts, and less red and processed meat. Further gains are associated with increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables, and fish, while reducing the intake of sugar-sweetened drinks, eggs, and refined grains”, Fadnes explains.

A useful tool

Fadnes is the leader of the project that is called Food4HealthyLife project. He adds that:

"Research until now has shown health benefits associated with separate food group or specific diet patterns but given limited information on the health impact of other diet changes. Our modeling methodology has bridged this gap. The methodology provides population estimates under given assumptions and is not meant as individualized forecasting. There are uncertainties related to the health effect of eggs, white meat, and added oils, individual variation in protective and risk factors, and time to achieve full effects. Furthermore future development of medical treatments; and changes in lifestyle are also not taken into consideration."

If the diet changes are initiated in later ages, the gains are smaller but still substantial – even among people in their seventies. Even quite feasible diet changes are associated with an increased life expectancy of seven percent or more for both sexes across age groups.

"The Food4HealthyLife calculator enables instant estimation of the effect on life expectancy of a range of dietary changes and could be a useful tool in for clinicians, policy makers, and the general population", says Fadnes.

Article: Estimating impact of food choices on life expectancy: A modeling study 

The Food4HealthyLife calculator: https://food4healthylife.org/


The article has attracted international media attention, including CNN and Le Monde